Pouring $7 billion into America’s worst schools has produced few “turnarounds,” reports Caitlin Emma in Politico. Nationwide, “about two thirds of (School Improvement Grant) SIG schools nationwide made modest or no gains — not much different from similarly bad schools that got no money at all,” she writes. “About a third of the schools actually got worse.”
In Miami, a high school in Little Haiti has moved from an “F” rating to a “B,” with help from SIG money. Achievement remains low, but not as low as it used to be.
At a low-performing school in Chicago, nothing changed. Fewer than 10 percent of juniors are proficient in reading, math and science, the same level as before.
Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho lined up “the support of teachers, unions and parents,” before SIG money arrived, writes Emma. With union buy-in, he was able to move strong teachers to low-performing schools, transferring weaker teachers to other placements.
“In Chicago, where teachers fought the program and officials changed almost yearly, schools churned through millions of dollars but didn’t budge the needle, reports Emma.
In 1989, 16 high-poverty, low- scoring elementary schools in Austin, Texas, were awarded $300,000 a year for five years, above normal school spending, to settle a desegregation suit. After five years, little had changed at 14 of the 16 schools, I wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle column. Two schools improved dramatically in achievement and attendance.
Only two of the 16 schools had plans for raising achievement before they got the money, researchers Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy wrote in an analysis of the “natural experiment.”
In the 14 schools that didn’t improve, the money was used to lower class sizes, but teaching and curriculum stayed the same — and so did results. In the two schools that improved, principals lowered class size, but that was just the start of many changes.
Here’s the Education Department’s new SIG report.